ETHICS SLIDES © Robert Barnard 2006
Ethics and Morality • Morality – from the Latin (mores) for conduct -Right vs. Wrong -Focuses on acts • Ethics – from the Greek (ethos) forcharacter -Good vs. Bad -Virtue vs. Vice -Focuses on states of affairs or persons
Moral Intuitions vs. Moral Principles Moral Theories try to bring our moral principles into line with our intuitions. Moral intuitions are our immediate intuitions about the moral status of something Moral principles are the rules established by the moral theory.
Moral Theories (have parts) Theory of Value Theory of Moral Value Theory of non-Moral Value Theory of Right Conduct Inter-definability…
Deontic Status of an Action Interdefinability…
Divine Command Theory A useful theory to start with…. DCT = An action A is morally wrong iff God commands not-A; an action A is morally right if God commands A or if God permits A • Theory of Right Conduct • Theory of Value
The Euthyphro Dilemma Assume that A is good just in case God commands A Why does God command A? Does (i) God command A because A is Good? Or (ii) Is A good because God commands A?
Euthyphro Dilemma (2) If (i) God commands A because A is Good, then God is not the explanation for why A is Good. DCT fails as an account of morality. If (ii) A is good because God commands A, then either (iia) God has a reason or (iib) God has nor reason to command A.
Euthyphro Dilemma (3) If (iib) then God is not Rational and classical theism is flawed. [At worst, God’s commands are arbitrary and morality can change moment to moment] If (iia) God is rational, but God’s reason (e.g. the goodness of A) is the real explanation. [Thus, back to (i)]
Euthyphro Dilemma (4) ED is a problem for Classical theists DCT is motivated by theism But ED shows that DCT requires either that a) God is not Rational or b) God not the source of morality.
Moral Objectivism and Relativism • Moral Objectivism – The view that there are universal moral standards that apply in all cases. [There is a single correct answer to moral questions] • Moral Relativism --Cultural Relativism – moral standards are relative to ‘culture’. --Subjectivism – moral standards are relative to the individual
An Argument for Subjectivism [S] • Morality is supposed to motivate and guide conduct. • I can only be motivated by what is part of my individual psychology. • My subjective moral intuitions are part of my psychology, moral principles are not.------------------------------------------------ • Therefore, morality is subjective.
Critical Evaluation of [S] • Not every motivation is moral. Just because someone is motivated to do X, when X is what moral intuitions require, does not mean that X was motivated by the moral intuition. • Individual intuitions may tend to converge upon objective moral principles
Argument for Cultural Relativism [CR] • If there are objective facts about X, then there should not be persistent disagreement about X. • There is persistent disagreement (as between cultures) about morality.-------------------------------------------------- • Therefore, there are no objective moral facts.
Evaluation of CR (1) • Same Principle / Different Practices • Moral Judgments lack significance/moral Criticism impossible • Moral Progress becomes difficult
Evaluation of CR (2) Relativists in Theory are not relativists in practice. Even if you think torture is OK, I would never agree that your view makes it OK to torture me.
Objectivist Moral Theories • There are three main objectivist moral theories • Utilitarianism/Consequentialism (Bentham and Mill) • Deontological/Non-consequentialist(Kant) • Virtue based ethics (Aristotle)
Duty Based vs. Outcome Based Moral Theories Moral theories are usually divided according to whether the theory aims to require a certain kind of conduct (duty-based) or to recommend a specified end or goal (outcome-based).
Outcome-Based Theories • Teleological Theories (Telos: Gk. goal, aim, or purpose) • The Outcome is a state of affairs – the nature of the good is specified. Duty is then defined relative to good. This is sometimes called a consequentialist theory • The Outcome is a state of character for a person. Goodness is specified with a certain way of living a human life. Rightness is a function of living that life. This is sometimes called a virtue based theory.
Duty based Theories • Deontological Theories (Deon: Gk. Duty or obligation). • Deontological theories determine duty (what is required or forbidden of a person) without regard to the consequences of the actions or to what sort of person is involved.
Right vs. GoodA Useful Distinction? • Consider: • She did the right thing for the wrong reason. • He is a good person who did a bad thing. • He did the right thing, but the result was bad.
Jeremy Bentham John Stuart Mill Consequentialism THIS IS BENTHAM’S REAL HEAD
Bentham’s Utilitarianism • The Greatest Happiness Principle: Humans only act for the sake of pleasure and to avoid pain. The good is pleasure. • The Hedonic Calculus – calculate utility of each possible action
HEDONISM • Both Bentham and Mill are “Hedonistic Utilitarians” • Hedonism has two versions that we must attend to: Psychological Hedonism – The claim that human action is motivated by pleasure/pain. Ethical Hedonism – The claim that pleasure is good and pain is bad/evil.
Bentham’s Hedonic Calculus • Intensity (The relative strength of the sensation) • Duration (how long it lasts) • Certainty or uncertainty (How likely the sensation is to follow the act) • Propinquity or remoteness (how immediate is the sensation) • Fecundity (likelihood of producing further utility effects) • Purity (is the sensation of a single kind or is it mixed?) • Extent (for all who are affected…) [KEY POINT, NOT JUST YOU]
Bentham’s Moral Theory Bentham’s Theory of Value: The good is pleasure. Each action has an objective value determined by the hedonic calculus Bentham’s Theory of Right Conduct: every agent is morally obligated to perform the action which will maximize pleasure overall for everyone involved.
Mill’s Utilitarianism Mill defends and extends Bentham’s view against criticisms. There are subtle changes which make Mill’s view superior These changes result from the attempt to answer specific objections.
Mill’s Moral Theory-Right Conduct • “The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure. To give a clear view of the moral standard set up by the theory, much more requires to be said; in particular, what things it includes in the ideas of pain and pleasure; and to what extent this is left an open question.” (Mill Util, II, para 2)
Mill’s Theory of Right Conduct • TRC-U: actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.
Mill’s Moral Theory- Value • “But these supplementary explanations do not affect the theory of life on which this theory of morality is grounded- namely, that pleasure, and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends; and that all desirable things (which are as numerous in the utilitarian as in any other scheme) are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain.” (Mill, Util, II, Para 2).
Mill’s Theory of Value • TV-U: Pleasure and freedom from pain are the only things desirable as ends.
The Objections: • Mill formulated his version of Utilitarianism in response to specific objections which had undercut Bentham’s version • These objections either attacked utilitarianism for denying that humans were special or by denying that it was practical.
The Doctrine of Swine Objection • Util. assumes that pleasure is the good (Moral Hedonism) • Util. assumes that we only act for the sake of pleasure (Psychological Hedonism) • This is how animals behave, not humans • Thus, Util. requires that humans be like animals (like swine). • Hence we should reject Util. because humans are not swine.
Types of Pleasure Reply • So What. If Psychological Hedonism is true then it is true. • Two Types of Pleasure: Higher and Lower • Higher Pleasures are superior (the comparison proof)
Too High for Humanity Objection • Util. requires that we act for the sake of the greatest good. • This might require a human to act to their own disadvantage or death. • This is an unrealistic expectation, most humans are constitutionally incapable of altruism (ought implies can) • Therefore, Util. requires more from humans than they are capable of. • Therefore, Util. cannot be the correct account of human morality.
Individual Goods comprise the General Good Reply • The good of all is the same as the sum of all individual goods • Individuals can always pursue their own goods • If every individual pursues their own pleasure that is the same as pursuing the good of all. • [Economic Analogue?]
Lack of Time Objection • Util. requires that we calculate the value of every possible act and chose the best. • Such a calculation is beyond the ability of human beings • Such calculations would take a great deal of time • We must therefore either act without calculating or calculate in place of action – we lack time to do both. • Therefore, we cannot fulfill our obligations under Util.
Rule of Thumb Reply • Not every action requires a new calculation • The history of humanity provides adequate evidence of general rules of utility • Traditional morality reflects these general rules • Obeying traditional morality yields the same basic result that would result from calculation
Mill’s Hedonic Calculus • Intensity (The relative strength of the sensation) • Duration (how long it lasts) • Certainty or uncertainty (How likely the sensation is to follow the act) • Propinquity or remoteness (how immediate is the sensation) • Fecundity (likelihood of producing further utility effects) • Purity (is the sensation of a single kind or is it mixed?) • Extent (for all who are affected…) [KEY POINT, NOT JUST YOU] • Type (higher or lower?)
Mill’s Moral Theory The basic gist of Mill’s moral theory is this: Human beings pursuing their own happiness (primarily intellectual happiness) will over time produce a world that contains the greatest net amount of happiness. Therefore, each person has a moral obligation to maximize their own pleasure (or at least to structure their life so as to permit the pursuit of pleasure).
General Objections to Mill’s Utilitarianism • Immoral to Promulgate • Illegitimate Aggregation of Goods • Cannot Quantify Utility • Allows the ends to justify the means -Lives for Headaches -Innocent Spelunker -Dying Promise Case
A Complication… • Act-Utilitarianism: The rightness or wrongness of an action is determined through case-by-case calculation • Rule-Utilitarianism: The rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by rules that generally tend to promote overall utility
A Question (or two, to keep in mind)… • If Act utilitarianism is too complicated consequentialists must be rule utilitarians. • BUT How do we determine the moral rules? • And is there any difference between rule-utilitarianism and Kantian ethics?
Is Utilitarianism Correct? The factors in favor of consequentialism generally seem less than conclusive. What are the other options? -Morality based on Rules/Principles -Morality based upon Character